Jedi: Fallen Order share their love of Star Wars and what it took to record the score of the popular video game

Photo: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order in-game screenshot.. Courtesy EA Press
Photo: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order in-game screenshot.. Courtesy EA Press /

What can you do in 14 days? Well, Gordy Haab and Stephen Barton recorded all the original music for Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order. Here’s how they did it.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order has become a favorite video game for fans. It follows a young Jedi Cal, who is on the run from the Empire after Order 66.

The game sees Cal race across the galaxy exploring new and familiar worlds. There are new characters who will now be part of the Star Wars lore all the while creating a unique story.

One of the highlights of Jedi: Fallen Order was the score. The music added to the great world created by Respawn by tapping into emotions and the history of Star Wars. The score was created by Gordy Haab, who has worked on previous Star Wars games, including Battlefront I and II and Star Wars: The Old Republic, and Stephen Barton, a long-time composer of movies, TV and video games.

The two came together to create a fantastic score that only added to the beauty of Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. 

Dork Side of the Force had a chance to interview the composers and get the details on what it took to record seven hours worth of original music in just 14 days.

Dork Side of the Force: How long did the music project take?

Stephen Barton: Altogether it took the best part of 18 months to put the whole thing together, we started in the spring of 2018, and we were mostly working on themes, sketches and ideas through that whole year, trying to build up a palette of sounds, textures and a musical vocabulary that would fit the tone of the game. Then we spent most of a year writing the score, recording a bit just before E3 2019 and then the bulk of the music later that August.

Photo: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order composers Gordy Haan and Stephen Barton. Image Courtesy Defiant PR
Photo: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order composers Gordy Haan and Stephen Barton. Image Courtesy Defiant PR /

DSOF: How different is your mindset when working on a video game project compared to a movie project?

SB: I think we’re always mindful that what we’re working on is non-linear and can change in a way. Compositionally, you’re still writing music, as it were … and still trying to find the things that make music for any project, film, TV, or game, work well and resonate emotionally.

One of the things that often doesn’t work is when the music feels like it is very conscious of the action in a way that preempts story beats, sometimes you don’t want to build to a moment, but make it a surprise. So, it’s very much something that you build on the fly, seeing what works and what doesn’t.

With a film you know what’s going to happen and when, but in gameplay either it can happen at a different time or not at all, so you have to write in a way that will be able to accommodate that. It’s like doing a jigsaw puzzle, but being allowed to use a pair of scissors, and to change the picture.

Gordy Haab: Film, TV and games all present their own set of challenges for a composer. But where film and TV by their nature give the composer a set timeline to compose to — games provide a much more open-ended canvas.

I’ve always equated it to the musical equivalent of a “choose your own adventure” book. So, for example, at the end of one piece of music, you may have to compose multiple possibilities for how the music will end — or where it may go next, depending on the choices the gamer makes. So like Stephen mentioned, because of this, many games tend to have much more music than a film or TV show may have, in order to account for multiple scenarios that could unfold based on the gamer’s decisions.

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order is no exception to this rule — we composed somewhere near seven hours of completely original music for the game!

DSOF: Gordy Haab, It’s not your first Star Wars project? How do you make it different from the last?

GH: Every Star Wars game I’ve had the pleasure of working on has offered a completely unique musical challenge. For example, Star Wars: The Old Republic was set further back in time, so the music sounded like the predecessor to the music from the film era. Star Wars Battlefront was more rooted in the original trilogy sound established in the film’s music and Star Wars Battlefront II was based in the prequel era and thus musically more befitting to that style.

However, with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, I had the opportunity to spread my wings a bit, musically speaking, because the game’s story is completely unique. Since it’s set during the time closely following Order 66, I was able to dig into the deeper side of what it means to be a Jedi. Our goal with this score was to create a sound that is both authentically Star Wars, but also something completely original and unique; a score featuring new harmonic and melodic concepts and certainly one that digs deep into some very heavy emotion

DSOF: Stephen Barton, How was working on Star Wars different than the other franchises you worked on?

SB: Well, it’s like being handed the keys to a mint condition Ferrari Daytona, it’s a thrill and an awesome responsibility at the same time. The musical legacy is so rich and beloved, you have to dig down into the core of what makes it work and what makes it resonate with people. With that said, it does mean you already have a terrific musical vocabulary to work with.

DSOF: What kind of challenges do you face while working on a Star Wars project? 

SB:  I think the fear of the blank page takes on a different light, for one, because you’re not just trying to write themes, you’re trying to write themes that will hopefully stand up against some of the most iconic tunes ever written. But once you’re going, it’s pretty thrilling because these are things we grew up loving and to be able to expand on that is a great privilege. There’s also the scope of it — recording six to seven hours of music over 14 days with over 200 musicians and singers at Abbey Road is a logistical challenge, even just in terms of getting the music printed. Then all of that has to be mixed, and implemented into the game, tested, fixed and implemented again!

GH: Plus, we are working to make sure the sound resonates with, literally, billions of Star Wars fans. It’s more of a personal challenge we placed on ourselves — to live up to the expectations of the massive Star Wars fan base. Of which we both consider ourselves to be a part of.

DSOF: How does working on Star Wars compare with other projects you have worked on?

GH: The last decade of my career has heavily leaned towards Star Wars-related projects, so a different question might be, “How does working on non-Star Wars related projects compare to your most prominent body of work as of late?”

Either way, my answer is similar. At the heart of it, my approach is not that different. The most important thing for me is to lend a hand in heightening the emotion that is at the core of a project. The goal is to help the audience connect with the settings, feelings, characters, and their emotions.

SB: There’s really been nothing quite like it for me. Even coming from working on some major franchises, this is the holy grail. It defines an entire generation, it’s an ingrained part of the public consciousness. People have a love for this material that’s beyond almost any other media franchise. Star Wars resonates across every single age group, it crosses language barriers — any barrier, really. There’s nothing to even really compare it to.

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DSOF: Where do you pull inspiration from?

DB: We were, of course, inspired by the original trilogy. However, we wanted to try and delve into this dark time where we find Cal and the crew he meets along the way.

GH: Exactly. Both Stephen and I are big fans of, and students of classical/orchestral repertoire. And we were able to use our knowledge and love of this music as a major source of inspiration. Additionally, I don’t believe either of us would have composed the score we did had it not been for the stellar direction we received from Respawn’s audio director, Nick Laviers. A genius in his own right, he came to the table with a very strong vision. In many ways, his inspiration also became our inspiration. Nick challenged me to think of Star Wars music in a light I had never explored before and the score is all the better for it.

DSOF: Were you previously fans of Star Wars?

SB: Definitely! I had the toys. I think the entire team at Respawn loves this franchise on a very deep and personal level, and I hope that comes through in the game.

GH: To say the least, yes! It is, and always has been my favorite film franchise. And the music from the original trilogy is, without a doubt, the very thing that sparked my interest in orchestral music at a very young age.

DSOF: What is your favorite Star Wars movie?

SB: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, but I’m also very fond of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

GH: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back is also my favorite. But Star Wars: The Force Awakens completely resparked my love for Star Wars as an adult. Both the film itself…and the score. Now you see why Stephen and I make a perfect team!!

Next. Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order successfully infiltrates the galaxy’s lore. dark

Have you played Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order? What did you think of the score?